Category Archives: Tdf trip planning

Information on seeing the Tour de France in person, including the process I go through myself each year- figuring out the TdF route, finding places to stay, rental cars, trains & more.

Gnarliest 28-mile ride ever? Welcome to Grenoble!

Today was our “option” day; the ‘Tour isn’t passing by close enough to make it practical to see (and we’re going to get plenty of ‘Tour viewing in the next 5 days straight!) so instead we chose to do a ride local to the Grenoble environs, something we could ride directly from our hotel to. And if anybody ever gets the idea I’d rather avoid driving, they’re right!

We’re staying a few miles out of town, in St Egreve, nestled in a valley between the Vercors and… something else. We’ve ridden the Vercors; we’ve seen the steep stuff on the other side, and wondered why there weren’t roads going up there. A quick check of mapmyride and strava confirmed my worst fears. There are roads going up there, but very few people ride them. Why? I guess it depends how you like your roads. If you enjoy Sonora Pass, Ventoux, Redwood Gulch, China Grade… then D105 up to the Col de la Charmette might be for you!

First a trip to one of the few bakeries in this town, for breakfast and “spare” cokes to bring with us for refueling. Next a stop to pick up more sunscreen, and then the main event. Up, up, up and more up. I’ll have photos soon but ran out of time for this entry due to having to plan tomorrows big day at the time trial. But we survived, had a good time, and downed more coke, orange juice, water and lemonade than you would have thought possible. So yes, we’re staying hydrated.

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Kevin doesn’t think Ventoux’s easy anymore

And this is the "easy" part of the climb!

And this is the “easy” part of the climb!

Can't explain this one. A guy walking up Ventoux wearing a big box with a rider's name on it.

Can’t explain this one. A guy walking up Ventoux wearing a big box with a rider’s name on it.

Our first day intercepting the Tour de France, and I’d love to say it was all fun & easy, but Ventoux is one tough climb and this time, it got the better of Kevin. Probably because it was hot, 90+ degrees for the first part, and wickedly steep. I brought along enough water (Cytomax) and made sure Kevin was drinking, and planned ahead of time to stop for a cold soda anytime Kevin wanted one. But still, that 7 mile section that averages over 9% can get to you, and it certainly did today.

Approaching Chalet Reynard, the end of the really-nasty part of the climb!

Approaching Chalet Reynard, the end of the really-nasty part of the climb!

Still, it was a successful and, in the end, fun day, even though the Dutch weren’t out in force (they’ve likely been staying on Alpe d’Huez waiting for Thursday’s big day there). Lots of people in nutty outfits, the usual cast of incredibly-strong guys pulling kids in trailers up the hill, the people yelling encouragement to you.

In a flip-flop from last year, it was Kevin that requested walking up part of the climb, about a quarter mile or so, when one of his legs was bothering him. Did I protest? No way. You do whatever it takes to get to the top! And he did recover fairly well after that.

Chris Froome, today's stage winner and likely winner overall, looking both haggard and out-of-focus. Artistic license on my part? Nope. Just screwed up.

Chris Froome, today’s stage winner and likely winner overall, looking both haggard and out-of-focus. Artistic license on my part? Nope. Just screwed up.

Far fewer issues with Gendarmes closing off the roads or telling us we couldn’t ride too! I had some concerns that we might get shut down at Chalet Reynard like they tried to do to us last time (we had to sneak around a barrier) but I figured if we got there by noon we’d make it through, and we arrived at 11:58am. Pretty good timing!

What we should not have done was to park ourselves at the highest part of the hill we could get to, 550 meters from the top. It wasn’t a great spot for photos, being in the middle of a long straight section, but it did have the advantage of a sandwich and coke seller 100 meters away. Next time, we’ll ride up as far as we can, and then head back down the hill a couple of kilometers to a good spot for photos, which means on a corner, not a straight section.

Tomorrow we pack up and leave Avignon for Grenoble, where we’ll be spending 6 nights and see the final Time Trial and all the Alps stages. Lots of big climbs still ahead, but nothing quite like Ventoux, and in fact the only climb I’ve ever found quite like Ventoux is Sonora Pass. Which I need to ride again, but seem to be in no rush to do so. :-)

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